Analyzing Emory– What’s a Release Party without some music?

January 4, 2013

So, Emory, one of my beloved MCs, works at a music store called Alternative Scene. Emory and Kyle’s similar taste in music is one of ways they bond early on in the book.

I’m a huge music fan. And, in this day and age, when most music consumption is through iTunes or Amazon, I long for the days when I could wander into small, quaint record stores and browse for hours. Independent record stores are very few and far between nowadays, and when this story was in the beginning stages, and Emory was becoming a person in my brain (Does that sound weird? I think it does…), it popped into my head that he absolutely had to work at a run down, one-of-a-kind, diamond in the rough, music store that specializes in Indie/Alternative rock.

Since Indie/Alternative happens to be my favorite genre of music (funny how that works…lol), and Emory is quite the expert, he agreed he help me out today and put together a little release-day playlist of some of his favorite bands. I hope you enjoy!

Emory’s playlist

1. Placebo, Bright Lights

2. IAMX, Spit It Out

3. Blood Red Shoes, Don’t Ask

4. Ladytron, Destroy Everything You Touch

5. School of Seven Bells, iamundernodisguise

6. M83, Midnight City

7. The Duke Spirit, Send A Little Love Token

8. Birthday Massacre, Kill the Lights

9. Death Cab For Cutie, Soul Meets Body

10. Placebo, The Bitter End

So, what’s your favorite music? Do you like buying your music in stores or online? Physical CDs or mp3 format? Do tell!

Remember, comment and you’re automatically entered to win an ebook copy of Analyzing Emory. Just be sure to leave your email so I know how to reach you. :)

Analyzing Emory– Release Party and Giveaway!

January 4, 2013

Hello all!

I’m Lily Grace and I’m thrilled to be holding a release party today for my first novel and first release with Dreamspinner Press, Analyzing Emory. I’ll be sharing some excerpts and a few other goodies throughout the day. Anyone who comments on any of my posts today will be entered to win an ebook copy of Analyzing Emory. Please include your email address in your comment so I know how to get in touch with you.

I’m working at the good ‘ol day job today (I mean, seriously, I don’t get a special book release vacation day?!), and though I have several posts all cued up and ready to go, it’ll probably be later in the day before I have the opportunity to reply to comments. So, thanks in advance for your patience!

I’m beyond excited to be part of the Dreamspinner family and to finally be able to share my book with you all today. I’d like to take a moment to thank L.C. Chase for creating such amazing cover art. It encapsulates all the feelings and elements I wanted in my book cover. I think it’s absolutely beautiful, so thank you so much L.C.!

First off, here’s what Analyzing Emory is about:

Blurb

When a family friend offers him the job of resident psychologist at Chicago’s GLBT Center, Kyle Michelson jumps at the chance to reinvigorate his career, move on from his recent breakup, and get his life back on track. Kyle hopes returning to the familiar territory of his hometown will do him good, but meeting Emory Brenner at a club changes everything.

Anything but familiar, Emory leaves Kyle breathless from the start. There’s just one problem: Kyle wants more than a one-night stand, Emory doesn’t do relationships, and neither man can resist the other. Luckily for Emory, he never has to see Kyle again. Or so Emory thinks until he runs into him while volunteering at the GLBT Center.

Kyle makes Emory want things he never thought he could have and chips away at secrets Emory has kept locked away for years. On the surface, Emory’s recovered from his past: he has a job at a record store and a roof over his head. But putting his trust in another person, having a relationship, means opening himself to more pain—and that is a risk he can’t take.

The first chapter can be found on the DSP website or on my blog, so I thought I’d start off today by sharing another excerpt. Enjoy!

Excerpt (PG)

Kyle cracked another egg into the mixing bowl and began to whisk vigorously. What the hell did he think he was doing? He shook his head and blew out a gust of air. He was making a delicious breakfast for his one-night stand, that’s what he was doing. It had been hard getting out of bed and leaving Emory still sleeping. Kyle had woken up with Emory still cradled in his arms and realized how much he missed waking up with someone. It also didn’t escape his notice how good if felt with Emory—specifically—in his arms. God, he looked like some sort of beautiful, dark angel while asleep.

Kyle rolled his eyes and scoffed at his own sappy notions. He considered himself a relatively romantic guy, but that was a pretty gooey thought even for him—especially since that thought was directed at someone he just met. Kyle was used to relationships, not random sex. Maybe that was why he had no idea how to do this. He still wasn’t quite sure what came over him last night when he decided to take Emory home. He hadn’t really expected anything when he walked through the doors of Spin, but as soon as he saw Emory he had felt an incredible magnetic pull. He couldn’t have said no. Not to him. Sure, Emory was perhaps the most beautiful man to ever grace Kyle’s sheets, but there was something else. Talk had been relatively limited, but something about Emory intrigued him. Those soulful eyes—he found himself aching to learn more about what was behind them.

As he cut up some veggies, Kyle couldn’t deny he wanted to get to know Emory better. But how did one go from a one-night stand to dating? Maybe he was even crazy for thinking it. He shrugged. Breakfast was as good a place to start as any.

Feelings aside, the sex had been—amazing just didn’t quite seem to cover it. It would be easy to become addicted to Emory’s perfect, lean body and pert ass. There were a few things about the evening that gave Kyle pause, though. Maybe it was all in his head, but Emory had seemed to shy away when things got too tender or intimate. When it felt like they were teetering on making love, Emory had looked almost panicked, quickly getting on his hands and knees and hurriedly prepping himself, effectively shifting things back to simple fucking. Maybe Kyle was reading too much into it. He wasn’t exactly an expert on casual sex. He refocused on dicing the tomatoes.

“H-hi.”

Kyle somehow managed not to slice his own finger off when Emory’s voice reached his ears. He stood a few steps inside the kitchen. He shuffled his feet and shoved his hands further into the pockets of his now-rumpled skintight jeans from the previous night. His face still had that doughy, flushed, post-sleep glow, and his black hair, now mostly devoid of product, curled ever so slightly below his ears and stood up in one or two odd places around the back of his head. It was all Kyle could do not to drag him back to the bedroom and do further ungodly things to him.

“Good morning. How’d you sleep?” Kyle managed to keep his suddenly raging libido in check and play the part of the good host.

Emory’s eyes widened. “Fine. Your bed’s really comfy.” He gave a small smile and his cheeks seemed to turn even rosier.

Kyle chuckled at that. “Yeah. I know firm mattresses are supposed to be better for your back. But I’ve always liked to sink right in and be surrounded by downy softness.” He smirked. “I can always go to a chiropractor if I have to, but I won’t give up my bed.”

Emory gave a brief smile, and then his eyes flitted toward the door. “Um, well, I better get going. It, um, it was nice to meet you, Kyle.” He ran a hand through his hair and tucked it behind his ear as he began moving hastily in the direction of the front door.

Kyle was frozen for a minute as he processed what was happening. The knife still in his hand clattered against the cutting board, and Kyle followed a swiftly retreating Emory.

“Wait a minute.” Kyle caught up to Emory and gently grabbed his arm before he could reach for the door handle. “Stay for breakfast.”

Emory’s mouth opened and closed, and for a moment he resembled a guppy. “I can’t. But thanks.”

“Do you really have somewhere you have to be?” Kyle gently pushed.

“Well, um, no, I just….” Emory got that panicked look on his face again, and Kyle let go of his arm.

“Don’t worry about it. If you’d rather not, that’s fine. I just¼ I thought it would be nice.” Kyle tried to give him a sincere smile without looking too disappointed.

“It’s not that I don’t want to.” Emory looked surprised at his own words. “I just, I don’t want you to go to any extra trouble. I mean, I certainly didn’t expect….” He trailed off, clearly not knowing how to proceed.

Kyle took a deep breath. He didn’t know how to do one-night stands, and it seemed Emory was a master of them but had no idea what to do the morning after. What a pair they made.

“It’s no trouble. I promise. We both have to eat, don’t we?” One side of his mouth quirked up. “Besides, I’d like you to stay. Really.”

Emory considered this, his lips still parted, his tongue darting out to moisten them. Then he slowly nodded.

“O-okay.”

“Great!” Kyle beamed and took the liberty of placing his hand on the center of Emory’s back, leading him back to the kitchen.

There were bar stools on the far side of the large granite-topped island that held the range top, and Kyle deposited Emory next to one of them. He had already set the table, but it would be easier for them to talk while he finished up breakfast with Emory sitting closer.

“Are eggs okay?” Kyle peered over his shoulder as he shoved the remaining veggies back in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. “If not, I can make pancakes instead. I also have bagels, cereal, toast¼.”

Emory’s expression was one of bemusement and bewilderment as he perched himself on the nearest stool. “Eggs are just fine.”

“What do you want in your omelet, then? I have tomato, onion, green pepper, and mushrooms. There’s ham and bacon. And either feta or cheddar cheese.” Kyle looked at the little chopped piles, making sure he hadn’t missed any of the choices before looking up again at Emory.

He found his morning companion laughing softly. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“What?” Kyle looked down at the chopped food and back up at Emory.

“I thought you were a psychologist. Do you also moonlight as a brunch chef on occasion?”

Kyle blushed and ducked his head. Maybe he had gone a little overboard. But he loved to cook, and he hadn’t had anyone to cook for in a while.

“I just like to cook. And”—he shrugged—“I’m a big fan of brunch.”

He grinned at the man sitting at his kitchen counter. It was nice to see Emory’s impish smile and wit return. The shock of having “breakfast included” must be wearing off.

“So, what’ll it be?” Kyle wiggled his eyebrows.

“Um,” Emory chuckled. “Tomatoes, mushrooms, feta cheese, and just a little bacon on the side, please.”

“You got it.” Kyle poured some of the beaten egg mixture into the already-buttered skillet. “There’s coffee made and mugs are in the cabinet right above the pot, so help yourself.”

“Cool.” Emory gave him an appreciative smile and slid off his stool in a quest for caffeine.

A few moments later Kyle plated two perfectly formed omelets, added a side of bacon to Emory’s, and carried them over to the table. He placed the coffee pot on a trivet between the two place settings and scanned the table for anything he had missed.

“Wow. This looks so good.” Emory sat down at the table and immediately picked up a piece of bacon with his fingers and took a bite.

Kyle found he was terribly pleased Emory was so appreciative of his efforts in the kitchen. He smiled and sat down himself.

“Do you want juice? I have orange or cranberry.”

Emory swallowed his mouthful of bacon, and Kyle was briefly mesmerized by his bobbing Adam’s apple. “No, thanks. I’m good with just coffee.”

“Okay.” Confident that Emory had everything he needed, Kyle took off his hostess hat and dug into his omelet.

Kyle was amazed how hungry he was this morning. He guessed his impromptu workout the previous evening accounted for it. Images from the previous night quickly flooded his brain, and he swiftly lifted his coffee mug and took a large sip to hide the sudden arousal he worried was written all over his face. He surreptitiously watched Emory eat out of the corner of his eye. Kyle would kill to know what was going through the beautiful man’s head this morning.

Aria Release Party: Excerpt #3 and Giveaways!

December 24, 2012

Here’s the last excerpt from my brand new Dreamspinner Press release, Aria (Blue Notes #3) ! I’m running a bunch of giveaways to celebrate release day.  Enter by leaving your name and email on my blog.  I will draw a name from the comments for each of the drawings tonight. So comment once, and you’re entered into all the drawings!

One of the drawings is for a t-shirt with the gorgeous cover of Aria (art by Catt Ford) smack dab center. I’ve got a pretty good selection of sizes, too. XD The photo, by the way, features the incredible interior of the La Scala opera house in Milan, which appears in a few of the Blue Note Series books, including Aria and The Melody Thief. It’s probably one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, and along with Covent Garden in London and The Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center in New York, is one of the ultimate performing venues for an opera singer. Not surprisingly, opera sensation Aiden Lind, one of the main characters in Aria, sings in all of these amazing places. I guess in that sense, Aria is a bit of my own fantasy come true.

Ever wonder how opera singers manage to be heard in these huge venues that seat thousands of patrons? It’s a combination of things, really. First, the accoustics of these opera houses are amazing. They were built so that a human voice could fill the space without amplification. But not just any human voice. Big human voices (yes, that’s the term for loud voices in opera speak). The kind of voices that sing in large houses like these are ones you could hear from a mile away (not that much of an exaggeration!). How do you “get” a big voice? Most of it is genetics–the way your jaw, mouth and throat are made. But there’s also technique that you can learn to help project your voice, most of which has to do with breath support (singing over the breath, much like a violin bow vibrating across a string). Do it wrong, and you can hurt your vocal chords and end up with vocal “nodes,” which are a bit like a callous and interfere with the vibrations of the voice (and make you sound hoarse or raspy).

Interested in reading a bit more of Aria? Here’s another excerpt for you, from Chapter Two. Hope you enjoy it! -Shira

*********************

Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

**************

Chapter Two

London

“MR. LIND!” the reporter shouted at him as he walked out the side door from Covent Garden. “Do you have a minute?”

Aiden had just finished rehearsing for his London debut in a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He was exhausted and looking forward to a hot shower back at his place. He pulled up the collar of his wool coat and tucked his scarf a bit tighter around his neck. With all the insanity that seemed to swirl around him recently, the last thing he wanted was to get sick and have to cancel a performance. He could see the headline now: Lovesick Opera Star Misses Opening Night.

Deep breath. I can do this. He turned and flashed his best, most confident smile at the woman. Opera singers never got much press attention, but ever since he’d met Cameron Sherrington, Aiden had been on the radar screen. Cam wasn’t only the outrageously wealthy heir to a global hotel conglomerate, he was also a sometime impresario who financed Broadway-bound productions and even a movie or two when it struck his fancy.

“Mr. Lind, I’m Janine Thomas, from the Sunday Press,” the woman said as he shook her hand. “I was hoping to ask you a few questions.”

“Sure.”

He had been expecting the usual “Did you know that the queen will be attending your debut?” or “Are you and Lord Sherrington planning another vacation aboard his yacht this summer?” So he was entirely unprepared when she asked, “Is it true about Lord Sherrington and Jarrod Jameson?”

“What?” He stared at her for a split second, then swallowed hard and fought to regain his composure.

He knew Jarrod. Cam had invited him and about a hundred other guests to a party a few months before at “the castle,” as Aiden liked to call Cam’s family’s sprawling estate about an hour out of London, at which he and Cam sometimes spent the weekend. Jarrod was an Olympic swimmer and recent gold medalist in the European games held only six months before. Lean, muscular body, model good looks. Gay.

The reporter—Aiden had already forgotten her name—thrust a large glossy photograph into his hands. He knew he should hand it back to her, but he was so rattled he couldn’t think straight. The photo was grainy, obviously taken at night. It showed two men entwined and kissing behind a tall iron gate. The kiss was not chaste.

Aiden’s mouth went dry. He knew that gate—the gate in front of the London home he and Cam shared in Bloomsbury. One of the men looked a lot like Jameson, although he couldn’t be sure. And the other man… Aiden was pretty sure he recognized the familiar high cheekbones, the short brown hair that was always stylishly mussed, and the lean, athletic frame that looked so striking in an expensive suit. And well he should. He’d been living with the man for nearly a year.

He shoved the photograph back at her. “No comment.” His jaw tensed as he strode quickly over to the curb and flagged down a taxi.

“Mr. Lind!” she shouted as he ducked into the cab and shut the door. He ignored her and gave the driver his address.

AT NEARLY two in the morning, Aiden heard the front door open and close. He had spent the better part of the past three hours making a serious dent in the contents of a cut crystal carafe filled with expensive scotch. He was drunk, but not so drunk that he didn’t care. He wished to hell he was. He didn’t want to care. It hurt too much.

It was still so surreal, living in this incredible Edwardian house in one of the most expensive London neighborhoods. He had grown up in rural Mississippi in a three-bedroom ranch on his grandfather’s farm. The house had been comfortable but small, built in the late 1960s, when his father married his mother. A wedding present. Aiden had always wondered how his mother must have felt, having her front door a few hundred feet from her in-laws’ home. But if it had bothered her, she’d never mentioned it. Elizabeth Lind was the perfect wife and mother, attending church, cooking and cleaning and raising her two children. His mother’s world was far removed from the one into which Cameron Sherrington had been born—one of wealth and privilege. Aiden still felt like a usurper, a pretender to his current circumstances.

“Waiting up for me, sweetheart? I told you I’d be at the gallery opening late. Lady Billingsley insisted we go out for drinks afterwards, and you know how she is.” Cameron laid his coat over the back of the loveseat, walked over to Aiden, and bent down to kiss him on the head.

“I looked online,” Aiden said, his voice a monotone. “The gallery opening was last week.”

“Checking up on me?” Cam laughed and kissed Aiden again. “I’m sure you’re mistaken.” He walked over to the buffet and poured himself a glass of sherry. “I hardly imagined the party tonight. And it was a dull one, frankly. If Sarah hadn’t been there, I’d—”

“Was he good, Cam?” Aiden got up from the couch and stood in front of the fireplace.

“What on Earth are you talking about? And who is he?”

“Jarrod Jameson.”

The slight twitch in Cam’s cheek told Aiden everything he needed to know.

“Jameson? You mean the swimmer? What would I know about him?” Cam refilled his glass and waved it in Aiden’s direction.

“I know you’ve been fucking him.”

Cam raised an eyebrow. “You’re drunk.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“We can talk about it in the morning, when you’ve sobered up a bit.” Cam gave him a long-suffering look that made Aiden feel like he was six years old again.

“Cam. Shit. You promised you wouldn’t—”

“Shhh.” Cam took Aiden in his arms and ran his hands through Aiden’s hair.

Aiden wanted to pull away, but he couldn’t do it. Instead he melted into Cam’s arms.

“You know I love you. What happens out there, it’s not us. This,” he continued, “here, this is who we are.”

The fire spit angrily, and Aiden watched it with calm detachment over Cam’s shoulder. Cam was right. This was home. He loved this old place with its creaky stairs, wood paneling, painted doors, and beautifully worn oak floors. They had picked out the furniture together, shopping the antique stores of Portobello Road until they found the perfect pieces.

“Cam, I—”

“You’re being paranoid, sweetheart,” Cam interrupted. He ran a thumb over Aiden’s mouth, tracing his lips until Aiden closed his eyes. “You worry too much. You always do.”

Aiden took a deep breath. Maybe Cam was right. Maybe he was being paranoid. The photograph had been taken at night, after all. And he hadn’t been sure it was Cam.

“Come to bed, Aiden,” Cam purred as he licked a line from Aiden’s chin to the sensitive spot under his ear. “And let me show you how much you mean to me.”

“AIDEN?”

Shit. He had missed his entrance. Again.

“Sorry, David. I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.”

David Somers peered at him over the rim of his reading glasses and frowned. “It’s about time for lunch anyhow,” the conductor said as he stood up from the piano. “How about it? My treat.”

“I… ah… sure.” Aiden had eaten with David before, but he still felt supremely awkward around the superstar conductor whose old-world grace and sophistication were so far removed from Aiden’s humble upbringing. David was classical music royalty, and Aiden was the hick kid with the incredible voice.

They’d met three and a half years before, not long after he’d arrived in Germany. David had taken Aiden under his wing, gotten him work in the larger European houses, introduced him to the best European conductors. David was the reason Aiden was making his Covent Garden debut; in the terms of his contract, he had insisted on Aiden singing the title role. David had even sent Aiden to a friend who had his own line of clothing with one of the largest European fashion houses for a “bit of polish,” as David had put it. David had taught Aiden about good wine and good food. Aiden’s best friend, Cary Redding, loved to tease Aiden that David was his fairy godfather.

When David’s driver let them out in front of a small fish and chips place near Piccadilly Circus, Aiden was more than a little surprised. He’d been expecting something a bit more posh. David was clearly amused to see Aiden’s reaction.

“Fish and chips is an art form in its own right,” David told Aiden in his upper-crust New England accent. “Not everything on your plate needs to be haute cuisine.”

Ten minutes later, settled at a table near the back of the tiny restaurant, Aiden nodded in hearty agreement as he bit into a delicately battered piece of fish that melted on his tongue. “This is incredible.”

David’s response was a knowing but reserved smile. David never laughed, as far as Aiden could tell, and right now, Aiden was thankful for it.

“Something’s on your mind, Aiden,” David said. He never did beat around the bush.

“It’s nothing.” Aiden wiped his lips and tried not to blush.

“I’ve never seen you this distracted.”

Aiden was utterly embarrassed. It wasn’t as if he was going to discuss his love life with someone like David Somers. Why would David even care?

“I am not entirely oblivious to your situation,” David continued, apparently unfazed by Aiden’s silence. “I knew Lord Sherrington’s parents quite well.”

Oh God, Aiden thought. Can it get any worse? He waited for the other shoe to drop. David would fire him now, wouldn’t he?

“That’s interesting,” Aiden said, knowing he looked like a complete fool and reminding himself that there were other jobs to be had. Of course, none of the other jobs he’d gotten since coming to Europe were anywhere near his current gig: performing at the best opera house in Great Britain with the best conductor around, singing the title role in Don Giovanni.

“I simply wanted you to know that if you need anything,” David continued, “I’m here to assist. I have several spare bedrooms at my London flat.”

Aiden’s mouth fell open. Was the man offering to put him up if he left Cam?

David offered Aiden a warm smile. “I put very little stock in the gossip rags,” he said as he tore a piece of fish off with his bare hands, “but I am not so naïve as to believe that there is never a grain of truth to be found between their covers.”

“You… you would do that?” Aiden stammered as David’s words began to work their way to his fuzzy brain. “Put me up?”

“Of course. Aren’t we friends?”

Aiden coughed and choked on a piece of fish until tears appeared in the corners of his eyes.

David handed him an extra napkin with casual aplomb. Does anything ruffle this man? Aiden wondered. Friends? Me and David Somers?

“It would be my pleasure.”

“I… uh… I mean… that’s very kind of you and all, but….”

“Aiden.” David’s face was serious now, his expression sympathetic and kind. “You have far too little faith in your own abilities both on and off the stage. It isn’t my place to give you advice as to your private affairs, but I feel it’s my duty as your friend to remind you that I am here should you ever need my help.”

“I… uh… thanks, David. I’m honored. I mean, I’m—”

“There’s no need to thank me. And no need to speak of it further.” He gestured to Aiden’s plate. “By the way,” he continued, “the fish is far better consumed hot.”

Aiden nodded dumbly and went back to work on his food, knowing the heat in his cheeks was visible to his companion but unable to do anything about it. There was no doubt in his mind that David’s offer was entirely genuine.

David Somers wants to be my friend? It seemed so improbable, so surreal. And yet, there it was.

“YOU were splendid, darling,” Cam gushed as he met Aiden in the front entrance of his family’s estate and planted a kiss on his lips. “Not that I expected anything else, of course.”

Cameron had invited the entire Don Giovanni cast back to the castle to celebrate iden’s London debut. And the orchestra. And the stage crew. Half of London, really.

Cam guided Aiden into the grand ballroom of the estate to a round of applause from the guests. Aiden caught David Somers’s eye, and the conductor raised his glass and smiled.

The place was magnificent. Glittering chandeliers cast flickering slivers of light on the polished marble floors. The ceiling was painted with tiny stars on a deep blue background, the walls paneled in well-oiled wood that shone and reflected blue and white with the crystals overhead. Toward the back of the ballroom, enormous arched doors led out onto a patio running the length of the room. Aiden was reminded of the dizzying effect of a disco ball, only far more ethereal.

A jazz orchestra played at one end of the high-ceilinged room as women in ball gowns danced with men in tuxedos. Aiden had begged Cam for a little party at their own home. He was entirely out of his element here, amidst the titled guests and local celebrities. Cam, however, had insisted that Aiden deserved the lavish celebration, and Aiden, knowing it was useless to argue, had finally relented.

For nearly two hours, Aiden smiled politely as guest after guest congratulated him on his performance. Finally, at the end of his patience and feeling the usual exhaustion that followed an evening of singing, he walked onto the patio and into the damp evening air. The midwinter chill on the breeze helped clear his mind.

It was quiet here, overlooking the formal gardens. Beyond, Aiden could barely make out the copse of trees he and Cam had often picnicked under. Beyond that were the woods where they’d ridden on horseback—where Cam had taught Aiden to ride. Even now, as winter began to weave its tendrils throughout the countryside, it was still lovely. In spring, the trees and flowers would burst into a frenzy of color, each plant painstakingly placed for maximum visual impact. Aiden wished his mother could see this. She’d always loved to tend her garden.

Overhead, a plane made its way to parts unknown, but the only thing Aiden could hear was the wind as it moved through the trees and shrubs. He wondered what it must have been like for Cam, growing up in this beautiful but formidable place. They often spent weekends here in the spring and summer, but it never felt like home to Aiden. He couldn’t get used to the servants who pressed his clothing and turned down the bed at night, or the elaborate breakfasts that greeted them in the mornings with food enough for ten people.

In all his stays at the castle, Aiden had never once met Cameron’s mother. He once asked Cam how often he saw her, but Cam only laughed and pointed out that Aiden hadn’t seen his own parents or his sister in more than two years. Funny, thought Aiden, how he still missed his parents sometimes. But then again, John Lind had made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing to do with his only son. Aiden’s mother wouldn’t defy her husband, although she wrote to Aiden regularly by e-mail. His sister, Deb, had also made the effort to stay in touch, and he saw her once a year at most.

“Aiden!” he heard Cam call from the glass doors behind him. “You must meet Lord Cook and his wife, Audrey.”

With a sigh, Aiden turned and walked back into the ballroom.

AT NEARLY three in the morning, Aiden climbed the back stairs to the enormous bedroom he and Cameron shared. The room, as the rest of the house, was decorated in antiques. The bed was the only compromise in the room. Made of reclaimed wood Cam had told him once made up a wall-sized cabinet, it had been crafted to resemble the other pieces. Mahogany, finely detailed carving. Outrageously expensive. Cam had told him it was French and several hundred years old. Oil paintings of the English countryside hung at perfectly placed intervals on the damask-covered walls.

The party still continued below. It would go on until sunrise, Aiden guessed, but Cam would forgive him for turning in early. Not that Cam would hesitate to tease him mercilessly about being an early bird the next day. Aiden had a difficult enough time keeping up with Cam’s seemingly boundless energy, but after a long day and performance, Aiden knew it was a lost cause even to attempt it.

Aiden shed his tux, slipped into a heavenly pair of silk pajamas Cam had given him as a gift—one of many gifts—and washed his face in the spacious bathroom attached to their room. He reached for the toothbrush, neatly laid out on the glass shelf above the sink, when his stomach rumbled loudly enough for him to hear. He laughed. In all the chaos of the evening, he had forgotten to eat.

He never did eat much before a performance. He was loath to admit it, but he desperately feared burping when he was on stage. Not that he ever had. Still, it was a bit like a good luck charm for him, not eating. But afterward….

Damn. The servants would all be helping out at the party, so it wouldn’t be easy to find someone to bring him a snack. He didn’t want to get dressed again, he was too comfortable. He’d have to get the food himself without being noticed. Aiden smiled at the thought that he knew his way to the kitchen without descending the main staircase. He and Cam had sneaked down to the kitchen by way of the servants’ stairs more than a few times to snag leftovers after a particularly athletic round of sex.

He pulled on a pair of slippers and tied a warm woolen robe around himself. He made his way down the long hallway that joined the east wing of the house with the west, past the enormous staircase that led to the front entry, and toward the back stairs. He had nearly reached the stairs when he heard it—the sound of voices from a sitting room that joined a pair of bedrooms.

“Right… oh, yes… right there. That’s it. Just a little more. Oh… fuck!”

Aiden laughed to himself. He wasn’t all that surprised that some of the guests had made their way up here for a little added entertainment. The servants had been instructed to make the guest bedrooms available to Cam’s “good friends,” which in Aiden’s experience meant anyone who asked to stay.

He quickened his pace, not wanting to eavesdrop. The door to the sitting room was slightly ajar, so he kept his eyes focused on the stairwell so he wouldn’t be tempted to look inside. But then he heard a second voice, and he froze where he stood.

“Damn, but you’re tight tonight, sweetheart. Have you missed me? Have you been saving yourself for me? Because that tight little ass of yours is too delicious—”

Aiden’s gut roiled. He stormed over to the door and kicked it open with such violence that the sound echoed down the hallway. What he saw inside made him sick.

Jarrod Jameson was bent over an overstuffed settee. Naked. Cam, fully dressed, was ramming him from behind, his hands grasping Jarrod’s waist. Later, Aiden would realize that his gaze hadn’t focused as much on the men as on the antique sofa, with its beautiful carved scrollwork and hand-embroidered upholstery. Cam had taught him to appreciate the delicate beauty of just such an antique.

“Get the fuck out of here!” Aiden shouted at Jarrod as the two men abruptly separated.

“Aiden, sweetheart, I—”

“Shut up,” Aiden snapped at Cam as Jarrod picked up his scattered clothing from the Persian rug and ran out of the room, still naked. It was a good thing Jarrod left so quickly, because Aiden’s hands were balled in fists and he was having a hard time restraining himself from punching Jarrod’s face in.

Cam opened his mouth to speak, but Aiden didn’t give him the opportunity. “Don’t fucking try it, Cameron. It won’t work this time.” He turned and left, slamming the door to the sitting room behind him.

Back in his room—their room—a minute later, Aiden threw off his pajamas, pulled on a pair of jeans and a cashmere sweater, slipped on a pair of moccasins and a wool jacket, grabbed his wallet, and headed down the main stairway. He’d get his things later. He couldn’t stay a second longer.

Several guests were milling about the front door, drinks in hand, laughing. They barely looked at him in his street clothes. Maybe they didn’t recognize him.

Or maybe they don’t give a shit.

“I’m taking the Jag,” Aiden told one of the servants. The man looked at him with surprise but complied, returning a moment later to let him know the driver would be bringing the car around. Aiden was on the road back to London a few minutes later.

WHEN Cameron returned from the castle the next morning, Aiden had several suitcases spread around the bedroom and was packing his belongings. Aiden had tried to sleep but had given up in the end, deciding instead to get his things together. He couldn’t do this anymore. How could he have been so naïve? He had stupidly believed the man the first time. But the second….

What’s the old expression? Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me?

God, his chest hurt. His eyes were red from lack of sleep and tears. Ironic that the biggest night of his career would be the worst night for his heart.

“Darling,” Cam said as he looked into the bedroom at the array of suitcases on the floor and on the bed, “don’t do this.”

“Do what, Cam? Because last time I checked, I wasn’t the one doing anything. It was you, doing it to us.”

“Darling, please!”

“Don’t you fucking call me that! You don’t deserve to call me that.”

“Dar—Aiden,” Cam began again, “let’s talk about this. We can straighten this out.”

“Sure. We can straighten it out. I’ll forgive you again and you’ll go on doing what you want, won’t you?”

“You’re jealous. You always were.”

“Cam, for God’s sake! Of course I’m jealous. We live together, and I just caught you fucking some—”

“Sweetheart. Aiden.” Cam walked over to Aiden and took him in his arms. “Don’t do this.”

Aiden did his utmost not to respond to that touch, to the touch that had once sustained him through the ups and downs of his career. It was one of the hardest things he had ever done, not to melt into Cam’s arms as he loved to do.

“It’s over, Cam. I can’t live like this. It’s not what I thought we were about.” Aiden’s voice cracked.

“I’ll never speak to Jarrod again.” Cam’s tone was reassuring. “I promise you.”

“It’s not him. Don’t you understand? You’ll just find someone else. I’m obviously not enough for you.”

There. He had said it. And it was true. Because no matter how much he told himself he deserved better, it all seemed to come down to his own failings. He, Aiden Reuben Lind, hadn’t been able to keep Cameron happy. It didn’t matter how he looked at it. He had failed. It was time to admit it. Time to leave. Time to move on.

“I want you.”

Aiden pulled out of Cam’s arms and walked silently to the bathroom, grabbed his toiletry bag, and tossed it into the suitcase he’d been working on. “It’s over, Cam,” he said as he latched the case and pulled it off the bed.

“What will you do without me?”

The question scared Aiden to death. “I’ll be fine,” he said under his breath. He hoped he sounded more convinced than he really was.

“You need me, Aiden. You need what I can give you. Money. Better name recognition. Work.”

Work. Aiden hoped to God Cameron wouldn’t interfere with his work. Would he do that?

“I’ll be fine,” he repeated.

“You’ll regret this, Aiden. I assure you.”

Was that a threat? He didn’t dare ask. “Good-bye, Cam,” he said. He picked up the suitcase and headed out the bedroom door. “I’ll send someone around to pick up the others.”

Cameron said nothing.

“DAVID,” Aiden said an hour later as he stood on the doorstep of David Somers’s London flat, “it’s good to see you. I hope I’m not coming at a bad time.”

David smiled and opened the door for Aiden, took the suitcase over Aiden’s protests, and led him inside. “The offer to stay here didn’t have an expiration date.” He gave Aiden’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “You can stay as long as you like.”

Aria (Blue Notes #3) is at the Dreamspinner Press website.

Aria Release Day: Giveaways and Excerpt #2

December 24, 2012

Welcome to the release party for my new novel, Aria, the third in my Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances!  I’m running a bunch of giveaways on my blog, so stop by and comment to be entered into all of them.  I’ll be drawing winners at midnight tonight!

One of the today’s giveaway is for a paperback copy of Blue Notes, the original book in the series. Loosely based on my experiences growing up in France, Blue Notes is the story of former pianist, now lawyer Jason Greene, and jazz violinist Jules Bardon. The two meet in a Paris jazz club after Jason runs away from his life in the US when he catches his fiancee cheating on him.

Like Blue Notes, Aria is a story about a musician and a lawyer. In fact, Sam Ryan from Aria and Jason from Blue Notes almost end up in bed together at one point in the original story. They’re former courtroom rivals who meet after Jason’s heart has been broken. Instead, the two men become close friends and when Sam visits Jason in Paris, Sam runs into former lover and international opera sensation Aiden Lind. So begins their rekindled romance.

Aria is at times sad, at times sweet and funny, and of course, there’s a happily ever after (no spoilers here – I only write books with happy endings!). In fact, the HEA in Aria is probably my favorite so far in the series. But that’s all I’m saying!

Aria has a bit of the backstage world of opera. From the wigs, to the pancake makeup that tends to run down your face when you sweat under the hot lights (the heavy costumes don’t help much either), it’s really hard work. They say singing an opera is a bit like running a marathon. Not sure about that (I’ve never run a marathon!), but I do know that it’s a physical career. And no, in this day and age, most opera singers are not fat. In fact, the thinnest I’ve ever been was when I was singing. You really do have to look the part! Tosca, by the way, was supposed to be a sexy opera singer. ;-) Want to see what I call sexy when it comes to opera singers? Check out this excerpt from Bizet’s “The Pearlfishers” – the operatic equivalent of a bromance. That would be Aiden (the baritone) on the right in the clip. Yummy! See, opera singers can be hot!

I’ll leave you with a NSFW excerpt from Aria. This is the scene where Aiden and Sam first meet, five years before present day action. It’s a long and hot one. Enjoy! -Shira

*********************

Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

**************

Chapter Five:

New York, New York

The SoHo bar was crowded when Sam arrived a few minutes after eight o’clock. Some of his friends had recommended it to him, but he had never been inside. Typical of many establishments in the area, the walls were stripped bare of years of paint. Modern canvasses in various sizes and shapes broke the monotony of the ancient brick. Italian track lighting hung from the drop ceiling illuminated the artwork and the tables. Sam could make out the strains of classic jazz over the low drone of conversation. The smells of alcohol, aftershave, and musk hung in the air.

Sam realized his hand rested on his briefcase. He thought briefly of the metal cookie tin inside, which inevitably made him think of Nick. He and Nick first met in a bar, but Sam had never liked them much. As a couple, they had mostly socialized with friends, alternating hosting get-togethers at their loft apartment and spending weekends upstate in small B and Bs.

Sam felt overwhelmed as he sat down at the end of the bar and ordered a drink. He reminded himself that he was just here for the alcohol, but the Manhattan gay scene loomed frighteningly on the horizon, and he was woefully unprepared. Even now, a year after Nick’s death, he knew he wasn’t ready, though he’d already received a few appreciative looks in the few minutes since his arrival. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready for it again—it had been intimidating enough the first time around.

“Vodka tonic,” he told the bartender. Tonight he needed something stronger than his usual beer. Running a hand through his hair, he took a look around the bar for the first time. There was no dance floor, so the action was subtler. Men filled nearly every seat at the long bar, chatting in undertones over drinks. He fought the urge to leave. When the bartender placed a drink in front of him, he thanked the man and took a long, desperate swallow. The comforting effect of the alcohol began to kick in.

What am I doing here?

The man seated to his left got up and threw a twenty down on the bar, then waved to the bartender and the other men at the counter. Sam finished his drink in one long swallow and looked up again, this time into a pair of warm brown eyes framed by long lashes. The newcomer smiled affably at him. Sam managed to return the smile before quickly looking back down at his empty glass.

This was a mistake. He pulled his wallet out of his jacket and rummaged for a twenty.

“I hope you’re not leaving on my account,” said the man next to him. And, God, what a voice! A resonant, sexy-as-fuck baritone that went straight from Sam’s ears to his cock.

“Aiden Lind,” he said more formally as he offered Sam his hand.

“Sam Ryan. Nice to meet you.” Sam’s hand was warm, his grip firm.

Aiden gestured to the bartender. “Two more. On me.”

“I was just about to leave.” Sam didn’t want to be rude, but he needed to get out of the place. Coming here had been a mistake.

“Sure I can’t convince you to stay?”

“No. But thanks, Aiden. It was good meeting you.” Sam forced a smile and picked up his satchel before heading for the door. A moment later he stepped out into the chilly night air, taking deep breaths to calm his racing heart.

He wasn’t ready. He pulled his jacket collar up, then started for the subway station.

“Sam!”

Sam turned around to see someone running after him down the street. What was his name? Aiden.

“Look, Aiden,” Sam said as he caught up with him, “I’m tired.”

Aiden blinked. “Oh. No. It’s not like that.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wallet. Sam’s wallet.

Shit. The guy was being nice, and Sam had tried to blow him off.

Sam took the wallet and their fingers brushed. Sam’s cheeks warmed as their eyes met. Uncomfortable, he shifted his briefcase from one hand to another. “Thanks. Damn good thing my head’s attached to my body tonight.”

“No problem.” Aiden shoved his hands back into his pockets.

“It was good meeting you.” Sam was hard-pressed not to like the man.

“You too, Sam.” Aiden hesitated a second longer, then turned and waved as he headed back toward the bar.

It’s only a drink. No strings. It’s not like you have anyone waiting at home.

“On second thought,” Sam called after Aiden, “I think I’ll have that drink.”

“Great!” Aiden turned around and beamed at him, and Sam’s initial hesitation evaporated in the warmth of Aiden’s smile.

A few minutes later, they walked back into the bar. Aiden motioned to a free table. “This okay with you?”

“Sure.” Sam set his briefcase back down and settled into one of the metal chairs.

“What are you drinking?” Aiden asked.

“Vodka tonic.”

“Great. I’ll be right back.” Aiden headed for the bar before Sam could offer to spring for the drinks.

Now that they were back inside in the light, Sam got his first good look at Aiden. He hadn’t noticed when they were sitting down, but Aiden was nearly as tall as he, probably around six feet. He’d already noticed Aiden’s curly hair, high cheekbones, and the strong line of his jaw. Now, Sam couldn’t help but notice the black jeans that hugged Aiden’s firm ass and the long-sleeved Henley that fit his upper torso tightly enough to hint at the muscle beneath. Casual but undeniably sexy.

Back a minute later, Aiden sat facing Sam, and Sam noticed Aiden’s foot tapping the leg of his chair.

He’s nervous too. That surprised Sam. The guy was good-looking, friendly. Trying to quell his own anxiety, Sam took a deep breath. “Thanks for the drink. And thanks again for the wallet.”

Aiden seemed buoyed by Sam’s change of heart. “Long day?” He brushed a stray lock of hair from his eyes.

“You could say that.” Sam shook his head and exhaled audibly. If only you knew….

A waiter brought their drinks. “Cheers.” Sam held up his glass and Aiden touched his beer against it.

“Cheers.”

They drank in silence for a few moments until Sam realized he must have been staring, because Aiden leaned in and gazed at him—a gaze that held more than a whisper of lust. For the past year, Sam hadn’t even considered how he looked to the world at large. He donned his expensive suits like the uniforms they were, shaved, and combed his unruly hair, but he’d just gone on living, nothing more. He’d had a few blind dates friends had set him up on, but none of them had gone anywhere and he hadn’t cared. Now he was suddenly self-conscious, his suit rumpled after a long day bent over piles of documents, his hair undoubtedly sticking up in odd places as it liked to do.

When did it get so hot in here?

Sam pulled off his jacket and draped it over the back of his chair. As the second drink went straight to his shoulders, he felt his old confidence return. “What do you do for a living, Aiden?”

“Musician.”

“Really? What kind?”

Aiden appeared uncomfortable, almost apologetic. “I’m a singer. An opera singer.”

“You’re serious?” Explains the voice of God vibe.

“Yeah.” Aiden shifted in his seat.

“That’s cool,” Sam said enthusiastically.

“You think?”

“Yes, definitely.”

Aiden laughed—a warm, rumbled laugh that made Sam melt like a puddle into his seat. Aiden Lind was a handsome man, even more so when he laughed. “I get a lot of flak from my family about it.”

“Really? Why?” Sam finished his drink and flagged down the waiter for another round.

“They think it’s queer. I used to sing rock and gospel. That was okay with them. But opera? And shit, if they knew I liked men and women….” He laughed again, but Sam heard an edge to the sound this time and saw a flash of something like pain in Aiden’s eyes. “So what do you do, Sam?”

“Compared to singing opera? Just boring stuff. I’m a lawyer for a firm near Wall Street.”

“I sort of guessed. Nice suit, briefcase ’n all. Nice tie too.” Aiden wasn’t looking at Sam’s tie, though; his gaze never left Sam’s.

Maybe it was the booze, but Sam wasn’t in the slightest bit tempted to look away. Instead, he loosened his tie and undid the top button of his shirt.

“So what kind of law do you practice?”

Shit. What was it about Aiden that made everything he said sound like an invitation to do something sexual? The voice. Definitely the voice.

“Personal injury. Not my first choice.” Sam had rationalized taking the job for many reasons, but one in particular topped the list: the prospect of going home to Tennessee and back into the same dark and claustrophobic closet he had come out of was too horrible to contemplate.

“What would you rather be doing?”

At that moment Sam could think of a few things he’d rather be doing that had nothing to do with practicing law. “Employment law. Plaintiff’s work. You know, the underdogs?”

“Nothing wrong with that, is there?”

“No. Nothing at all.” The job had been a compromise: it hadn’t been what Sam had wanted, but it hadn’t been part of Samuel Stetson Ryan III’s “plan” either. It had been a huge disappointment to the old man that Sam didn’t return to Memphis to work for his firm.

Sam shifted in his seat, brushing Aiden’s foot by accident. At least he thought he’d done it by accident. “So.” Sam changed the subject and tried to focus on something other than Aiden’s foot rubbing against his own. “What’s it like, singing opera?”

The waiter came with another round of drinks—Sam lost count of how many he’d downed. Was this three already? It was hard to focus, and Sam was pretty sure it wasn’t the alcohol that was turning his brain to mush.

Aiden leaned back in his seat with his legs slightly apart. It was an inviting pose. Aiden held his beer in his right hand and gesticulated with it as he spoke. As Aiden’s leg pressed against Sam’s, Sam did his utmost to keep his eyes focused on his companion’s face. His own face felt warm.

“It’s great,” Aiden replied. “I’m planning to go to Germany soon, maybe do a few auditions there.”

“Sounds exciting. What would you be auditioning for?” Laughter erupted from the bar, and Sam moved his chair closer to better hear Aiden’s answer.

“Most of the larger German cities hire contract singers for their opera houses. It’s better than in the States. Here, you mostly just string gigs together to make a living. There, you have a steady job for a year at a time, do stuff in repertory. Beats waiting tables.”

“I didn’t realize it was that tough getting work.” He and Aiden were only about a foot apart now. From this distance, Sam could see the hint of Aiden’s hard nipples beneath the close-fitting Henley. It was difficult to focus on the conversation when his mind was busy imagining how he might take one of those nubs between his teeth.

“Once you get an agent, it gets better. I only graduated from school a few years ago, and it’s hard to get hired for big roles right away.”

“Kind of like getting stuck doing the grunt work right out of law school.” Sam knew the feeling well. He’d only made partner last year, and he’d done his share of shit jobs before that.

“Yep.” Aiden finished the rest of his beer, lingering over the mouth of the bottle before giving Sam a smile.

Sam swallowed hard and tried to ignore the renewed jolt of sexual heat he sensed in Aiden’s gaze. He looked down at his drink. It definitely wasn’t only the booze talking. He got hard just thinking about kissing Aiden, tasting him. “Are you from around here, originally?”

“Nah. I’m from Mississippi. Little town named Fenton, right outside of Jackson.”

“Really? Hell, I grew up in Memphis.”

“No shit.” Aiden laughed. “I thought I heard a little Tennessee in you.”

“You had me fooled. I figured you were from up north.”

“Comes with the territory. Good ear. Had to study French, German, and Italian in school. You lose the drawl fast or they beat it out of you.”

They talked about growing up in the South for a few minutes. Comfortable, easy conversation. How long had it been, Sam wondered, since he’d had a conversation like this with someone other than Nick?

Too long.

“Listen,” Aiden began as he stared awkwardly at his beer, which was now clearly empty, “would you like to get out of here?”

Since Nick died, Sam had said no to anything but casual hints at dating. This was much more of an offer.

“I’d like that,” he heard himself say.

Aiden looked surprised and pleased, but no more than Sam. Had he really said yes?

“I live over in Alphabet City. It’s not much, but….”

“That’d be fine,” Sam reassured him. He might be ready to spend the night with someone, but he sure as hell wasn’t ready to take a man back to his own apartment—the apartment he and Nick had shared. Not yet, anyhow.

Maybe never.

After a short cab ride, Sam followed Aiden up the stairs of a third-floor walkup off Avenue C and into a small two-bedroom apartment. The living room appeared to double as a third bedroom. Pots, pans, and cooking utensils hung from every inch of the high-ceilinged walls of the tiny kitchen. An electronic keyboard sat atop a cardboard box, and piles of music filled the built-in shelves. In spite of the clutter, the apartment was clean and smelled vaguely of lemon.

“I live with two other singers,” Aiden said. “Mark works nights, and Rob is out of town at a gig, so we have the place to ourselves.”

Sam put his briefcase down and tossed his coat onto the couch. He turned to find Aiden only a few inches away. In the shadows of the semidarkness, Aiden’s high cheekbones were more defined, his body backlit by the light from the streetlamp outside.

A moment later they were kissing. Rough, hungry lips met with equally awkward eagerness, teeth tapping against each other as Sam and Aiden found their bearings. Sam ran his tongue against Aiden’s lower lip and gained entry before pressing inward to find the warmth that waited there. Aiden’s mouth tasted good, with a hint of dark beer that lingered from the bar.

“Bed?” Sam asked.

Aiden’s answer was a low growl with the same deep resonance of his speaking voice. Sam had never realized the sound of someone’s voice could be such a turn-on. His body was thrumming now, and he knew there was no going back. He’d waited so long, denying himself in silent penance for circumstances over which he’d never had any control. Now he would let that final piece of Nick go and give his body over to someone new.

You know he would have wanted this for you.

Aiden put his arm around Sam’s waist as he led him down the short hallway, then pushed the bedroom door open with his foot. Sam felt the bed at the backs of his knees as Aiden pushed him down on top of the ragged comforter. The bedding smelled clean, though. Sam didn’t have a chance to take in the rest of the room before they were kissing again. Sam scrabbled for purchase on Aiden’s shirt, reaching to pull it over his head. He needed to feel Aiden’s chest, to feel someone else’s skin beneath his fingers.

Aiden’s body was as finely honed as Sam had imagined it to be back at the bar. Lean—not the overly sculpted abs that graced Times Square billboards—but just the way Sam liked them, with more than a dusting of dark, curly hair between his nipples. He pressed his hand to Aiden’s enticing skin. He wondered what it would be like to feel that chest vibrate when the other man sang. The thought led him to a renewed jolt of desire, and he pinned Aiden to the bed before pushing down Aiden’s dark jeans along with the gray boxer briefs to reveal the purple tip of a sizeable cock. It took only another minute before Aiden was completely naked on the bed. The fact that Sam was still fully dressed only served to arouse him more.

He didn’t need any encouragement to take Aiden’s erection in his mouth; he had to taste it. God, but the man tasted so good! Sam swallowed Aiden’s long cock down, pulling back the foreskin as he went and grabbing the base with his hand, slicked up with saliva. For a man who made his living with his voice, Aiden remained remarkably silent, but the upward arch of his body was tacit reassurance. Sam licked with abandon at the underside of Aiden’s hard width, then tightened the suction until he was rewarded with a gasp.

Sam’s ran his teeth and lips over Aiden’s cock as he moved upward to the tip, then nibbled his way around the crown and probed the leaking slit with his tongue, sucking to milk the salty essence there. He could feel his own hard-on pressed against his pants, which only served to intensify the experience. Denial for now. But later….

“Shit, Sam,” Aiden murmured in a distant rumble. “So good. So fucking good….”

Sam smiled wickedly, happy to have finally coaxed a sound from Aiden’s lips. He reached his free hand underneath Aiden’s balls, rolled them in his palm, then licked them, all the while fisting Aiden’s hard cock. He swallowed it again, skating wet fingers to find the clenched ring of muscles between the tight asscheeks. The press of his finger against the tight opening was rewarded with a low drawn-out groan, so he teased it again.

“Lube?” he whispered as he released Aiden’s cock for a moment.

“Don’t want any,” came the tense response. “Just push your finger in.”

Sam hesitated.

“Nah, Sam. It’s good like that… I like it like that sometimes.”

The words shot through Sam like fire. He pressed his saliva-slicked finger inside and felt Aiden’s big hands grasp his shoulders and pull him closer, encouraging him to push deeper. Sam hollowed his cheeks and increased the suction, pulling and licking until he could feel Aiden’s balls pull tight against his forearm.

“Shit… Sam… gonna… come,” Aiden warned.

Sam released Aiden’s cock from his mouth but continued to rub his lips and hand over it until he felt the warmth of Aiden’s come on his cheek. After Aiden stopped shaking, Sam met his warm brown eyes and smiled.

Aiden reached up and wiped Aiden’s cheek with the sheet, then leaned back against the pillow and inhaled long and deep. “Good God,” he said in an impossibly low, sexy voice, “that was incredible.”

Sam’s face warmed at the compliment, and he fought the urge to protest. Even after so many years of living in New York as an openly gay man, he still felt the stirrings of shame from time to time, his Southern Baptist roots too well ingrained to ignore. But the moment of embarrassment was short-lived, eclipsed by his own unsatisfied need.

“I want to fuck you,” he whispered. “If that’s okay….” He had never been hesitant before, but he felt like he was seventeen all over again, doing it for the first time in the woods behind the cabins at summer camp.

“You’re joking, right?” Aiden laughed. “Hell, yeah.” He reached under the mattress and pulled out a box of condoms and a small bottle of lube, then tossed them within Sam’s reach.

The tension in Sam’s shoulders relaxed until he felt his companion’s hand rubbing at the crotch of his pants. His breath caught in his throat. Too long. Way too long. He started to loosen his tie, but Aiden stopped him.

“Fuck me in that suit. It’s so damn hot.” He rolled onto his stomach and lifted his ass in blatant invitation. “I want you to fuck me in your clothes.”

“Damn,” Sam hissed as he unzipped his fly and pulled his cock out. There was something thrilling about the way Aiden had taken control, something about the way Aiden’s words had sounded almost like an order that made Sam shiver. And, oh God, the globes of Aiden’s ass beckoned, tight and smooth. Sam began to stroke him while he uncapped the lube and slathered his fingers with it, then reached around to press at the hole he had only barely breached before.

“No prep,” Aiden rumbled. “Lube it up. I like it when it hurts a little.”

What the hell do I say to that?

Sam knew the feeling himself, although he had never admitted it to Nick. He and Nick had been tender lovers—the kind of lovers who explored every inch of each other’s bodies with gentle fingers and tongues. Their lovemaking had never approached the rough animal sex Sam had often fantasized about. That hadn’t been Nick’s style; he had been as laid-back and slow in bed as he was in life, and Sam had loved that about him. The sex had been great. Better than great, but now….

Sam rolled the condom over his erection and greased it well, then leaned over and spread Aiden wider. Aiden’s low laugh was an invitation, and Sam looked up to see Aiden’s eyes filled with a mixture of need and playfulness. He pressed the head of his cock against Aiden’s hole, inhaling sharply as the outer ring of muscle gave way and he felt the warm tightness nip at his sensitive tip.

“Come on,” Aiden urged him. “I want it all the way inside.”

He pushed harder, Aiden’s inner muscles gradually releasing with some resistance until Sam was seated up to his balls. Aiden was half-hard again, and Sam grasped his thickening flesh with one hand as he pulled out. Then he pushed in once more, making sure he brushed against Aiden’s prostate. He felt Aiden’s shudder and saw the look of pleasure on his face.

“Harder, Sam. Need it harder.”

“Oh God, yes. But it’s been too long. I won’t be able to….”

“I don’t care.” Aiden’s voice was now rough, husky with need. “Do it like you know you want to.”

The realization that Aiden had guessed at something Sam himself had long denied only served to intensify the urge to pound Aiden senseless. “Fuck,” he panted. “You’re so tight.”

The bed shook as he picked up speed, pistoning back and forth, letting go of all of his repressed desire. His shirt clung to his skin, his pants rode up his ass, but that only increased the pleasure that ran from his cock up his spine and pulled his sac tight. He came with a shout and a series of shudders, then leaned down so his face was only inches away from Aiden’s.

Their eyes met. For Sam it was like diving into dark water—he didn’t know what he might find, but he was caught in the siren song. Aiden’s lips met his, and something deep inside Sam’s heart let go. A door he had closed when Nick died opened just a crack. It stayed open for a brief instant before he felt ice in his veins as fear seeped back inside.

“Stay?” Aiden offered hopefully.

“I….” Sam hesitated. “Okay.” He knew he should leave, that he wasn’t ready for this, but he couldn’t do it. He was so raw, so hungry for Aiden’s touch. He wanted more.

Aiden smiled at Sam and began to unbutton his shirt.

Release Day: Aria (Blue Notes #3)

December 24, 2012

I’m getting the release party started today, counting down to Christmas Eve, when Aria will be released by Dreamspinner Press! Each day, I will have a different contest for goodies. Enter by leaving your name and email on my blog. On Monday night, 12/24, I will draw a name from the comments for each of the drawings. So comment once, and you’re entered into all the drawings! You can purchase Aria here.

For those of you not familiar with the Blue Notes Series, each of the novels in the series is a standalone story that can be read in any order. Secondary characters in one story often become the main characters in another. Aria is no exception.

In Aria, we meet Sam Ryan from the original Blue Notes, a year after he’s lost the love of his life and his longtime partner, Nick Savakis. To say Sam is floundering is an understatement. He goes through the paces of everyday life as a Manhattan attorney, does his job well, but he’s forgotten how to live. On the night he finally gathers the courage to spread Nick’s ashes over the water at New York Harbor, Sam goes to a gay bar for a drink. He’s not looking for anything except maybe a one-night stand–something to make the pain go away. The last thing he expects is that he’ll meet someone he really likes: struggling opera singer Aiden Lind.

Aria is a story of love, loss, and moving on with your life. It’s also the story of the very real challenges of a long-distance relationship. Based in part on my experiences when I was traveling and singing, Aria gives the reader a taste of what isn’t as glamorous a life as you might expect. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

I’ll leave you all with a little taste of the first chapter of Aria, the bittersweet scene at the beginning of the book as Sam tries to say good-bye to Nick in Battery Park. More excerpts to come throughout the day today, including a few NSFW I promise will warm you up, so check back later! -Shira

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Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

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Excerpt from Chapter One:

THE ashes flew from his fingers the moment he lifted his hand to the wind. Weightless, ephemeral, they caught the stiff breeze and vanished over the water. The sky grew darker; a sunset painted in bands of fuchsia, orange, yellow, and dark purple streaked the clouds. Lady Liberty stood sentinel against the vibrant backdrop as a ferry made its way toward Staten Island.

Goodbye, Nick.

Sam looked down at the now empty tin in his hands. He replaced the cover and sat down on one of the benches at the edge of Battery Park, smiling to see the words Macadamia Chocolate Chip printed on the top. How many times had he seen his lover toss his tubes of oil paints into the battered cookie tin as they headed to the park for a Sunday afternoon picnic? Even after Nicholas Savakis had made his name as a rising young painter, he never replaced that metal tin.

“Who needs all the bullshit?” Nick said when Sam suggested they buy him a new box for his paints. “This works fine.” So when the funeral director tried to sell Sam a fancy urn, he refused. Instead, he took Nick’s ashes in the hard plastic box and transferred half of them to the tin. He gave the rest to Nick’s family.

It’s what Nick would have wanted.

Sam had decided on this spot even before the funeral, but it took him more than a year to gather his courage to come here. This had been Nick’s favorite place to sit and paint. Sam had often met him here after work during the six years they lived together.

Sam loved to watch Nick’s dark hair blow about his face as his lean hands moved with careful precision over the canvas, his long brushstrokes capturing the multilayered colors of the water and sky. To someone unfamiliar with Nick’s work, his paintings might seem only an enticing blur of paint and texture. But over the years, Sam had come to see the world through the eyes of the lanky, slightly awkward man whose stained jeans echoed the blue and turquoise he favored in his art. The paintings were whispers of Nick’s soul, the beautiful soul Sam had cherished. Sam had hoped to spend the rest of his life with that perfect soul.

He inhaled the salty air and closed his eyes. In the distance, he could hear the drone of traffic. The air was warm for mid-November, but as the sun set below the water, he shivered. The lightweight coat over his suit jacket did nothing to stop the biting wind. Sam had planned to do this the summer after Nick’s death. Nick would have laughed at him; he’d have told Sam he always took too long to decide things.

“S’only your fault you’re sitting here freezing your ass off,” Sam could almost hear him tease.

I love you, Nick. Wherever you are.

He opened his eyes once more, realizing he still held the cookie tin in his hands. He stood up and slipped it back into his briefcase, then slung the strap of the case over his shoulder. He needed a drink; he wasn’t ready to face the empty apartment yet. Not tonight, of all nights.

You purchase Aria on Dreamspinner Press!

Aaron Release Party – Model Jake Bass

October 8, 2012

Good morning and welcome to the release party, and last stop on the book tour for Aaron – a novel about a boy struggling desperately to right his world which was terribly altered by a horrific act of violence. I’m sorry the party got started a little late – I was at quite a different party last night (Hustlaball NYC) promoting the release and my work with Anteros Media.

JP Barnaby and the boys from Anteros Media

Aaron is a pocket twink. At 5’6” with a small bone structure, and an extremely gentle nature, some would describe him as mousy or timid. Formerly a fierce debater, he has a lion’s heart and quick, wry wit, but the light in his eyes has all but gone out. Hidden under layers of fear and pain, the boy who once won soccer trophies and took his brothers trick-or-treating was almost unrecognizable. With that kind of image in my head, I needed to find a cover model who could convey not only beauty but an innate vulnerability. I wanted a boy that made me want to protect him from the world when I looked at him.

Jake Bass in his element at Cockyboys.com

Jake Bass from Cockyboys.com

I found that model in adult model Jake Bass.

About the time I started my search, Jake Bass exploded onto the scene as Cockyboys.com’s newest exclusive. From the moment I saw those soulful eyes, and naked emotion, I saw him every time I closed my eyes to picture Aaron. He was Aaron. So, much like Trent Diesel and Parker Perry, I sent him a tweet to see if he was interested—and he was. Thankfully, so was Cockyboys.

Not long after I licensed the image from Cockyboys, I got to meet Jake Bass at the Black Party Expo in NYC while I was there for a signing at the Rainbow Book Fair. Just as adorable, charming, and sweet as he appeared online, he reinforced my desire to use his as the model for Aaron. Not only did I want the boy in the picture, but Jake Bass was someone I wanted to help promote, in whatever small way that I could.

I have several friends who are in the gay porn industry, so I have a lot of respect for what these boys do. To bare your body to the world for the entertainment and scrutiny of others takes a lot of courage. So, I introduce you to my Aaron, Jake Bass, and wish him every success and happiness life offers him.

Three signed copies of Aaron are up for grabs – make sure to enter the Goodreads giveaway by October 15th: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/33044-aaron

(Giveaway open to US residents only. If you’re outside of the US and would like a signed bookmark from Aaron, please request one from http://www.jpbarnaby.com/#bookmarks)

Want to see the rest of the stops on the tour?

http://www.jpbarnaby.com/?p=892

Check out Aaron at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3263

Rhys Ford: Dirty Secret Release Day!

September 28, 2012

First off, thank you everyone who picked up Dirty Kiss. I couldn’t have gotten to this point without your support. I’m also so very grateful for all of the kind words everyone has had regarding Dirty Secret. I hope you all enjoy it.

It’s been over a year since Dirty Kiss came out and I can tell you, it’s been a long, trying year. Dirty Secret was a labour of love scribbled in between drama, trauma and tragedy. I felt like a prisoner of war stealing napkins and coal bits to pen my opus to a gay detective. Opus is probably too big of a word for the book but let’s face it, if one can’t invoke the mighty Penguin of Bloom Country when writing about a book release, then the world is lost.

When I first thought of writing Cole, I wasn’t intending to give him a Korean boyfriend. Honestly, he was going to have his own cultural conflicts being half-Japanese. But then, something happened on the way to the second chapter. A pretty faced, feral cat of a Korean man came into the story and it hit me that Cole needed a love interest. Specifically, he needed someone he lusted after but didn’t understand.

Thus, Jae-Min became a recurring character. And Cole suddenly had no knowledge of what it meant to be Asian.

This is key. I wanted to write a series where the conflict between the main characters stems not from just within but also from without. I deal with this on a daily… if not hourly… basis. So many of us walk the edge between our traditional ethnic culture and a modern societal influence. I wanted to be able to portray that struggle so many people don’t see but others are so much aware of. I can’t tell you how many times my circle of friends are caught in that fold and we talk about it; how traditional someone is compared to perhaps their brother or sister and sometimes how difficult it is for others to understand why we chose to do something when to us, it is done without a thought.

I needed Jae to represent that. The conflicted Asian-American where Cole is solid in his own social norm.

While Dirty Secret is written as a mystery, I acknowledge the boys’ relationship is a key component to the story. It’s the overreaching arc of the entire series and needs to be fed small tidbits along the way. In this book, Cole is chasing after a long-dead trail of a Korean man gone missing during a police raid… an event nearly twenty years in the past.

Jae isn’t as heavily involved in the particulars as he was in Dirty Kiss but rather serves as a touchstone along the way, guiding Cole around through the minefield of dealing with powerful Korean families. Then people begin dying and despite his promises not to get involved, he does… and once more plunges into the unfamiliar waters of a cultural conflict he knows very little about.

Writing Cole does present some difficulties because he’s not an actual police officer but rather a private investigator and let’s face it, he can’t go around solving active crimes when there’s an army of blue-clad, gun-toting officers at the city’s beck and call. So his involvement in any criminal investigation will always have to be circumspect.

Until the bodies start hitting the floor then I can wade in where ever I want.

So, without further ado… or much ado… A Dirty Secret Excerpt. Continue reading “Rhys Ford: Dirty Secret Release Day!” »

Rhys Ford: Dirty Secret Release Day Ramblings

September 28, 2012

People have asked me why I write about Korean men. It’s been a common question and truthfully, there’s not a HUGE amount of Korean awareness in the general consciousness. We’re working on that. Promise.

Korea has a lot to offer the world. Mainly, very pretty young men who like to touch each other. Openly. It’s a nice thing. I highly recommend taking the time to look into it. I’ll even provide you with an example.

Go on. Take your time studying the example. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that you’ve had your fill or saved that to your desktop, we can discuss the downside of the Korean culture. Homosexuality is not an acceptable “lifestyle” choice for most traditional Koreans. There are recent exceptions as South Korea strives to expand its mindset to include gays, lesbians and other non-traditional lifestyles but change is difficult.

We are after all talking about a country that is CENTURIES old and pretty ingrained in its own thinking. Korea’s spent much of its time fending off the advances of China and Japan so they are expected to be a bit grumpy about change. Much of that region has been the battleground of cultures, especially since enculturation is a standard invading power tactic.

That said, there are changes and it’s good to see. I’d love to see a world where everyone can love whom they want to and someone doesn’t need to die because they kissed someone else on the lips in full view of someone who doesn’t feel that way about that particular gender.

I write not just about Koreans, although they are a pretty subject to contemplate. I write to hopefully bring some understanding…some humanity to someone who might wonder what it is like for a gay man or woman to live in a world where there is so much uncertainty.

I also like killing people off so writing mysteries is a bonus. Society tends to look down on people who dismember others in their back yard and to be honest, I don’t think I could actually take a life. I feel guilty enough when I accidentally run the shower and drown a hapless spider.

All bets are off on rare steak and bacon. That’s a different story.

Promoting Dirty Secret is kind of odd. What do I say about a book that I’ve written but can’t really post any spoilers? Heh. Cole is a messed up little boy in love with a complicated tangle of a Korean man. That’s pretty much the base of the story. People go missing, get killed and other bad things happen around Cole and he tries to figure out why and who.

Writing mysteries is both fun and a headache. I’ve gotten as far as 50K in and then discovered a HUGE plothole I had to go back and fix. Nothing says love like going back and retrofitting a book to include another character or to patch up something I didn’t see until it is too late. No mystery can be airtight. There has to be some foreshadowing or at least that is the current mindset.

Sherlock never had any foreshadowing. That was so frustrating. He pulled crap out of his ass the reader had no knowledge of until that final page. Kind of unfair but oh, there is a reason for it. Writing Cole in first person means that I cannot consciously reveal anything of the killer until Cole knows it. The foreshadowing has to be the barest of hints and only something that he can go back and hit on. Frustrating for the reader, yes. Damned frustrating for the author. There have been many times when I wanted to sneak something in but oh, I cannot.

Good time to toss in a sex scene, might I add. And with a hot Korean boy. Always good.

I’ve also been asked about Neko, Jae’s cat. Well, Neko is a real cat. One that’s currently shoving her bony little head into my armpit for affection. I gave Jae a cat because it was an extension of how he’s portrayed. I fully intended to kill her off in Dirty Kiss. But much like suddenly having Jae as a secondary character, my beta readers were adverse to me killing off the black chinchilla furred demon so she continues to haunt Cole’s existence.

My Neko is a demanding little diva, a bit smaller than most cats. I write her true to form. It’s only fair my character suffers alongside of me. Many a chapter has been paused for the five pound black fury when she wants affection.

There has been inquiries on why Jae cooks. Did I intend to make him a “submissive” sort of character by giving him a traditionally feminine role? The answer to that is no. I cook so I thought I’d toss that into Jae’s bag of tricks. It also gives him a different perspective than Cole. For many Asians, asking someone if they’ve eaten or had rice that day is a typical greeting. We can’t help but feed people. It’s as much of a habit as taking off our shoes at the door. It’s just what is done. It was important for Jae to have that trait.

Another question posed has been if I listen to music while I write. The answer to that is yes. Hell, I listen to music while I read. I have a soundtrack constantly going on. It’s critical. My musical tastes tend to be broad although I do listen to a lot of Korean music while I write anything in the Dirty series. I head over to the blues, Tool and Metallica when I write other things while VAST and celtic music if I’m writing urban fantasy.

One of my favourite Korean artists is G-Dragon, a founding member of a band called Big Bang. He does some solo stuff and for some reason, his brand of crack pushes all my buttons. So with that, I leave you with G-Dragon’s Crayon and thank you again for stopping by. Check out Dirty Kiss and Dirty Secret at Dreamspinner Press. I promise hot men, bloody bodies and a good time.

G-Dragon Crayon MV. Go on. You know you wanna click it.

Stamp of Fate — The Last Game

July 30, 2012

The big “whodunit” clue is the main myth I used in Stamp of Fate, but it’s not the only one. Even in mortal guise, there’s a lot of history between these characters, and it’s all played out in Greek mythology. I could hardly ignore that, so bits and pieces of a few other myths made their way into the story.

For example, Hermione (aka Demeter) has some pomegranate trees in her garden, but they’re off to the side because she’s none-too-fond of the fruit that caused her daughter to have to spend time in the underworld every year. Lukas (aka Helios) owns an auto company, and the model names of his cars are the horses that drew his chariot across the sky.

There’s more, of course, but you’ll have to read the book to figure them out *winks*. Meanwhile, why don’t you show me how much mythology you know by answering another set of quiz questions? Remember, one correct answer on any of the quiz posts will enter you into a drawing to win an ebook copy of Stamp of Fate.

Question Set #3:

  1. This god was jealous of Zeus’s amorous affairs and punished both his mistresses and their children with implacable fury.
  2. This god fell in love with the mortal Psyche but asked her not to light her chamber when he visited.
  3. This god presented the Greek people with an olive tree at the Acropolis.
  4. This god was also known as the god of earthquakes and the god of horses.
  5. This god becalmed Agamemnon’s ships when he was on his way to Troy.

Stamp of Fate — A Question To You

July 30, 2012

A slightly bastardized version of one of the Greek myths is a big clue to “whodunit” in Stamp of Fate. (No, I’m not telling you which one.) I actually started with the murder mystery idea and then brought the myth into it when I was stuck as to who the killer was and why, but I really enjoyed pulling the mythology together with the mystery.

What myths do you think would make a good book (whether they’ve already been turned into one or not)? You don’t have to stick with Greek myths. I’d love to hear stories from mythologies I’m less familiar with.

I will select one random response to win a signed bookmark.